White House exploits Iran democracy struggle

As in the Venezuela crisis, Donald Trump, the great enthusiast for dictators, is making a cynical pretense of concern for democracy in Iran. Fortunately, his latest bit of exploitation of the Iranian protesters has blown up in his face.  Noting the anniversary of the 1979 revolution, he issued a tweet yesterday featuring a meme with an image of a student protester from the 2017 anti-austerity uprising and the words: "40 years of corruption. 40 years of repression. 40 years of terror. The regime in Iran has produced only #40YearsofFailure. The long-suffering Iranian people deserve a much brighter future." He also tweeted the same message in the Persian language. Today, the courageous photographer who snapped the image at the University of Tehran in December 2017, Yalda Moayeri, comes forward to express her outrage at its co-optation by Trump, telling the New York Times:  "I felt cheated and abused, it causes me great sorrow to see the man who is inflicting so much pain upon me and my compatriots to use my image for his own agenda. I did not take this risk to have someone using it to pressure us Iranians even further." She added: "His sanctions are devastating our lives. Our money became worthless. People are becoming poor. Because of his travel ban, many Iranians cannot visit their family members in the United States. My father lives there and I can’t go either. I just don't want to be any part of his agenda against Iran."

Moayeri likewise told Newsweek: "It would be a great honor for me if this image would be a symbol of freedom everywhere in the world. But having President Trump use it without my permission in a tweet in Persian even is a great shame for me and causes me deep sorrow."

And to make it all the more predictably dystopian, Iran's official media, e.g. Tehran Times, are jumping all over Moayeri's repudiation of Trump.

All of this saw a prequel last week, when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Iranian-American journalist and rights activist Masih Alinejad, who began the recent online protests against the compulsory hijab law. The State Department-funded Radio Farda plugged the meeting, where Pompeo "thanked her for her bravery."

Iran's attorney general Mohammad Jaafar Montazeri promptly responded by dissing Alinejad in a rant about subversive "infiltration" of the country—as also noted with barely disguised glee by Radio Farda.

In her defense, Alinejad said in a tweet with a brief account of the meeting that she did challenge Pompeo on the Trump administration's travel ban for Iranians. That's something, at least. But not much.

The repression in Iran, of course, continues. An Iranian labor leader who organized worker protests at a sugar plant in restive Khuzestan province last year has just been arrested for a second time. Esmail Bakhshi was taken into custody after a judge rejected his claim that he had been tortured during his last period of detention and is at risk of similar treatment. Last fall, he led weeks of protests at the Haft Tapeh sugar factory in the city of Shush, over unpaid wages and claims of corruption by the plant's new private owners. (AFP, Jan. 21)

But thanks to Trump's exploitation of Yalda Moayeri, and Masih Alinejad's indiscreet meeting with Pompeo, it will now be that much easier for the regime to portray unionists and pro-democracy protesters as agents or pawns of US imperialism.

Recall that Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the US of fomenting the anti-austerity protests last year. (Funny how those in power never seem to think anyone would have any legitimate reason to be pissed off at them!) Yet another textbook study in the global divide-and-conquer scam which is the essence of the state system.

Image via @realDonaldTrump